Graduate story

When Olga Hamilton was made redundant, it gave her the opportunity to study nutritional therapy, how speaking English as an other language didn't hold her back, and how studying with ION had led to a varied, new career

What drew you to nutritional therapy?

“I have always been interested in health and nutrition. However, when I was in my mid-twenties I moved to the UK from Ukraine and started having really bad eczema on my face and hands. Traditional medicine was very limited in what it could offer — it was just moisturising creams and steroid creams. I went to many different dermatologists and skin specialists but most of the treatment was limited to these two options.

“I also got referred to a homeopathic hospital and was treated there for over two years without any success. I tried hypnotherapy for one year and acupuncture for two years, but it wasn’t until I changed my diet that my eczema disappeared. This was the only thing that truly helped and I had a remission for 10 months for the first time in three years. My eczema did come back after 10 months but I was absolutely sure that I was on to something, I just didn’t know exactly what I was doing and how to do it properly.

“I got made redundant from my job as a pricing analyst at Estée Lauder, so had enough money to pay for my education. I went to an ION open day having read The Optimum Nutrition Bible by Patrick Holford which inspired me immensely.”

How did your career change after ION?

“The start was very slow after my graduation; I wasn’t confident, I didn’t have a place to practise and I couldn’t commit to renting a room in a clinic on a regular basis. I had challenges with regards to marketing, sales and website — all of the business side of it. In my final year of study, I volunteered to be an intern to the CEO of ION at the time, Val Bullen. Val offered me the position of teaching clinic coordinator at ION which I happily took. I did this for about six months. She then offered me to work with her at The College of Contemporary Health to develop courses on obesity management. Whilst I was working there, I decided to continue my studies and got accepted onto a part-time MSc Nutritional Medicine at the University of Surrey. It was difficult to get accepted as I did not have a science degree, but I think my determination and BA in economics helped. Our first module was gut and gastrointestinal disease, which I completed with [an] 83 per cent mark — the best mark in the class. ION really does prepare you very well for how to research and write your assignments properly.

“There have been many ups and downs in my career. I worked for many companies writing menus, writing and presenting corporate presentations and workshops, advising on supplements, meal substitutes and protein shakes, and working at different clinics and retreat companies. I always kept my private practice on the side on weekends, but it only really took off when I got a room at the Harley Street Clinic. That was two years after I graduated and I remember I was so happy.”

What’s the best thing about your job?

“My favourite thing about my job is the diversity. Before the pandemic, I had seven different jobs, which all involved nutrition but in completely different settings: private practice; Bodhimaya retreats at Cowdray House and at the Lanesborough Club and Spa, where I see clients on a one-to-one basis, but also work with our chef to create customised meals to suit clients’ requirements, preferences and health plans; corporate wellness workshops and presentations; working with the team at Nutri-Genetix, where I helped to develop the world’s first genetically-tailored, nutritionally complete meal-shakes. I am also fascinated by biohacking and have been working for a new biohacking clinic. All of these projects develop different specialised skills in me, keep my work exciting and versatile, challenge me, and bring immense fulfilment and joy.”

How did you juggle your life and studies?

“I was very lucky because I could take the whole year off for my first year of education at ION — I didn’t have to work and I was supported by my husband. However, as I became more comfortable and confident in my studies, I took some part-time work selling skin care and cosmetics at Harrods. Studying was extra difficult for me because English isn’t my first language, so even though my English was good at that time, it was not excellent and I did not possess necessary medical vocabulary. As you can imagine, reading one Pub Med article would take me a lot longer than the average person!”

What have been your career highlights?

“I got an amazing opportunity to write and present a TEDx talk in London. It was about our mental health and our second brain — the gut microbiome — which is a topic I am very passionate about. When you genuinely believe and are excited about a topic you are presenting, it comes through and people can feel it. I think this is the most important factor that makes people listen, understand and remember you.”

What does a typical day look like?

“There is no typical day for me. My schedule can be really crazy and in one day, I can be presenting in front of 100 people, running to clinic to see a client, having strategy and planning meetings with the Nutri-Genetix team or spending a whole week at one of the Bodhimaya retreat venues.”

What advice would you give to those considering nutritional therapy?

“If nutrition is your passion, do not hesitate! It will be challenging, there will be tears and quite possibly you will want to give it all up. In the end, it is worth it: tremendously gratifying and rewarding."

Follow Olga on Instagram @ohnutrition

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